Coronavirus cases are surging across the United States, the epicenter of the pandemic, with one person dying of COVID-19 every 47 seconds. Nearly 16,700 coronavirus deaths have been recorded in the United States, with the number of confirmed cases approaching half a million — more than Italy, Spain and France combined. The true rate of infections is certain to be far higher due to a critical lack of testing.
The Labor Department said Thursday over 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits over the past week, as the pace and scale of U.S. job losses is set to rival the Great Depression. Officially, 17 million Americans — or 10% of the U.S. workforce — have filed for unemployment benefit in just three weeks, though that statistic doesn’t count immigrant workers or millions more who’ve tried and failed to file claims while state labor departments buckle under a tsunami of paperwork.
Around the U.S., food pantries are reporting record demand even as donations have fallen precipitously. One pop-up pantry in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles Thursday drew a mile-long line of cars.
On Capitol Hill, senators failed to agree Thursday on a new round of coronavirus relief. Democrats objected to a Republican effort to increase funding for a small business loan program by a quarter-trillion dollars. They’re instead demanding a more expansive stimulus bill, with federal aid for hospitals and more assistance for state and local governments.
In New York, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has topped 160,000, with a record 799 deaths reported in just 24 hours — though that doesn’t include scores of people who died in their homes over the same period. The pace of deaths in New York now exceeds any country in the world except the United States as a whole.
On Hart Island in the Bronx, workers in hazmat suits are burying the bodies of dozens of unclaimed coronavirus victims in mass graves each day.
The New York Daily News reports nurses at at least three New York City hospitals who’ve tested positive for coronavirus are being asked to work while sick.
At the White House, top coronavirus task force scientist Dr. Anthony Fauci said there are signs the pace of new infections in New York is falling, as social distancing measures begin to bear fruit.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “I think yesterday was something like 200 new hospitalizations, and it’s been as high as 1,400 at any given time. So that is going in the right direction. I say that, and I always remind myself when I say that, that means that what we are doing is working, and therefore we need to continue to do it.”
President Trump continued to ignore the urgent pleas of public health officials Thursday as he once again called on the U.S. to reopen much of its economy in early May. Trump admitted coronavirus testing would not be widely available by then, but insisted his plan wouldn’t risk a second wave of coronavirus infections and deaths. Trump was questioned by CNN correspondent Jim Acosta.
Jim Acosta: “How can the administration discuss the possibility of reopening the country when the administration does not have an adequate nationwide testing system for this virus? Don’t you need a nationwide” —
President Donald Trump: “No.”
Jim Acosta: — “testing system for the virus before you reopen?”
President Donald Trump: “No, we have a great testing system. We have the best — right now the best testing system in the world.”
Over 1 million people across the U.S. have been tested for the coronavirus — just a fraction of 1% of the population. After National Public Radio reported the Trump administration was preparing to end federal support for coronavirus testing sites around the U.S. on Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services reversed course and said it will continue to fund 41 community testing sites around the U.S.
In Riverside, California, first responders evacuated a nursing home Wednesday after most staff members failed to show up for two consecutive days. More than a third of the facility’s 90 residents tested positive for COVID-19.
In a hopeful sign, California Governor Gavin Newsom said Thursday the number of coronavirus patients requiring intensive care fell for the first time in California since the start of the pandemic.
In Kansas, Democratic Governor Laura Kelly is suing Republican lawmakers to stop them from overturning her executive order limiting the size of church gatherings ahead of Easter Sunday services.
In Minnesota, Attorney General Keith Ellison is pressing charges against a landlord who violated a state order barring evictions during the pandemic.
In Florida, billions of dollars’ worth of tomatoes, squash and other crops are rotting in fields, as supply chains that normally provide the food service industry with fresh produce have broken down.
On Thursday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis claimed the coronavirus “doesn’t seem to threaten” children, and falsely stated that nobody under the age of 25 has died of COVID-19 in the U.S.
In Chicago, a second prisoner at the Cook County Jail has died of COVID-19. Nearly 300 prisoners and more than 100 staff at the jail have tested positive. On Thursday, prisoners posted signs in the windows of their cells reading “Help, no supply” and “We’re dying.”
In Manhattan, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine has canceled plans to become a temporary field hospital for COVID-19 patients. Leaders of the church’s progressive congregation had a partnership with the field hospital’s operator, the Christian fundamentalist group Samaritan’s Purse. In a statement, church leaders wrote, “The beliefs and ideologies of Samaritan’s Purse and the Cathedral are not the same, and while we were willing to welcome them into our home and our community, the Cathedral would not waver on our outspoken support for the rights of all, including our LGBTQ family.” According to a cathedral source, the cathedral planned to hang a pride flag on the front of the building, which was unacceptable to Samaritan’s Purse.
Earlier this week, New York City activist Reverend Billy was tackled and arrested by police after he planted a rainbow flag near the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital tents in Central Park outside Mount Sinai Hospital.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis is set to deliver Good Friday, Easter services by video stream from a nearly empty St. Peter’s Basilica. Holy Thursday services did not include a ritual washing of the feet, in order to prevent community spread of the coronavirus. More than 18,000 Italians have died of COVID-19 in less than two months — though Italian mayors say the true toll is likely far higher, with many of the dead still uncounted.
In France, authorities have ordered nursing homes to report deaths of confirmed or suspected coronavirus patients. Officially, more than 12,000 have died of COVID-19 across France, but that number is expected to jump by over 40% once deaths outside of hospitals are counted.
In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reportedly been moved out of intensive care but remains hospitalized with COVID-19. Nearly 8,000 Britons have died from coronavirus.
In Spain, lawmakers voting remotely have extended a national state of emergency to April 26. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told a nearly empty Parliament he’s convinced social distancing measures will need to be extended further, into the month of May.
In Portugal, European Union finance ministers agreed Thursday to a rescue package worth over a half-trillion euros — or about $590 billion.
In Kazakhstan, a NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts blasted off on a Soyuz rocket Thursday, after an extended quarantine to prevent the coronavirus from spreading to the International Space Station.
Chinese authorities have ordered a lockdown of an eastern border city home to 100,000 people after discovering a cluster of COVID-19 cases they blame on travelers recently returned from Russia. The lockdown comes as strict social distancing measures have been lifted in other parts of China, including Wuhan, where the first coronavirus cases were detected late last year.
In the United States, frontline healthcare workers held a national day of action Thursday to demand personal protective equipment, or PPE, for healthcare workers — including employees of nursing homes and long-term care centers. In Chicago, over 100 workers from Stroger Hospital and the Cermak Cook County Jail hospital joined an SEIU Local 73 protest demanding universal testing of frontline healthcare workers, increased healthcare funding and an extension of paid sick leave and other benefits. This is Chicago union leader and activist Tyrone De’Andre Hawthorne.
Tyrone De’Andre Hawthorne: “We are the essential workers that you hear about on the news every day. And since we can’t go home and work from home like those who are making six-figure salaries, then, damn it, give us our hazard pay!”
In campaign news, former Vice President Joe Biden has unveiled plans to lower the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 60 and to forgive student loan debts for certain lower-income people. Senator Bernie Sanders’s former campaign secretary Briahna Joy Gray responded on Twitter, “That he’s willing to shift on these issues after telling us they were 'pie-in-the-sky' indicates that we can go further. Lower the age to 55 year one, 45 year two, 35 year 3, & cover everyone in year 4. That’s Medicare For All. Tax Wall Street and cancel all student debt.”
In immigration news, some 10,000 migrants have been sent back to Mexico since March 21 after being apprehended by U.S. authorities, without the chance to apply for asylum. The Trump administration shut down the asylum system for the first time in decades, using an obscure public health rule that allows U.S.-Mexico border officials to deny migrants due process, citing coronavirus prevention measures.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in San Francisco has ordered the release of four men whose ages and medical conditions make them especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. This comes as immigrant rights advocates continue to fight for the release of all immigrant prisoners detained in crowded and unsanitary facilities.
The Trump family has lost a massive legal fight in federal court that sought to keep details of a racketeering and conspiracy lawsuit against the family a secret. The claims against President Trump and his adult children will now likely be litigated publicly. The class action suit was originally filed in October 2018, alleging the Trump family and their family-owned business promoted and endorsed a multilevel marketing, or pyramid scheme, called ACN Opportunity, LLC. Plaintiffs describe the failed enterprise as a “get-rich-quick scheme” that forced victims to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars under the false promise of success.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has blamed the Syrian government for carrying out three attacks involving chemical agents in March 2017 in northern Syria. The OPCW has previously concluded that chemical weapons were used in the war, but did not have the mandate to name perpetrators. Syria and its military backer Russia have repeatedly denied using chemical weapons and have accused rebel groups of staging attacks to implicate Syrian forces. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, and over 10 million displaced, since the war began in 2011. The vast majority of civilian deaths have been from Syrian and Russian airstrikes.